Mountain lion spotted in Sierra wilderness near Truckee
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Sharon Wilson was inside her home at about 5:20 p.m. last Wednesday when something moving outside the kitchen window caught her eye.
“I looked, and here comes the mountain lion, just meandering down the hill,” she said.
Wilson said the cat ambled in and out of trees for about five minutes, stopping here and there to look around, and it didn’t seem to be bothered or in a hurry.
“He was like 30 feet from the house when I snapped the pic. Then he just went off into the manzanita bushes and I couldn’t see him anymore,” said Wilson, who lives at the end of Martis Peak Road, several miles east of Truckee, near the Nevada state line. “It was pretty cool to watch.”
This week, California and Nevada wildlife officials confirmed the cat is a mountain lion, although neither could determine its sex or where it came from.
According to a 2012 study among the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the University of Nevada, Reno, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, mountain lions have been moving west from the Great Basin into the Sierra Nevada.
That study isn’t enough to determine if the one photographed last week once lived in the Silver State — or, considering it had a tracking collar, if it was one of those studied — said NDOW spokesman Chris Healy.
Still, considering deer are prey for mountain lions, and the fact mule deer from the Loyalton-Truckee herd migrate through the area of Truckee’s Glenshire subdivision a few miles to the northwest of Martis Peak, he said it’s not surprising one was spotted.
“In a normal winter, the mule deer would migrate out of there, but since there’s been very little snow coverage, the deer would probably not migrate down to their winter range (in nearby Verdi, Nev.), which is probably a result of the drought … (mountain lions) are going to be where the deer are,” said Healy, adding that the cat looks like an adult.
In California, mountain lion sightings happen almost daily, said Janice Mackey, a Department of Fish & Wildlife spokeswoman.
Still, residents shouldn’t be afraid, she said, as the animals are quiet, solitary and elusive, and they typically avoid people.
“If anything, it’s a little gift from Mother Nature,” Mackey said, regarding Wilson’s sighting.
Mackey recommends if people see a mountain lion — also known as cougars, pumas or panthers — to watch it from a safe distance, and never approach one.
According to Fish and Game, the best strategy when coming across one in the wild is to never run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms, and throw rocks or other objects to scare it off.
In the rare event you’re attacked, the best thing to do is fight back, Mackey said.
In California, only 17 mountain lion attacks have been documented over the past 150 years, Mackey said. In Nevada, only one has occurred, in 1991 at a testing facility in Southern Nevada, Healy said.
NDOW as of late 2012 estimated between 1,200 and 1,300 adult mountain lions live in Nevada, a number that grows to about 3,000 if juveniles are included. They can be hunted in the Silver State.
Meanwhile, there are an estimated 4,000 and 6,000 mountain lions in California, where the animal is considered protected and cannot be hunted.
Visit dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/lion.html or ndow.org/Species/Furbearer/Mountain_Lion/ to learn more about the animals.